Opeth have been, over the past decade-and-a-half, one of the most consistently interesting exponents of heavy rock music. Within the broad genre of extreme metal – itself a challenging, exciting and ever evolving scene – they’ve nonetheless stood out for some time, with a run of albums from Blackwater Park (2000) thru to Watershed (2008) that remain unbeatable. If Heritage (2011) fell a little short of that high watermark (to my ears anyway) it wasn’t for lack of ambition; rather that the band’s decision to scale back on the brutality and channel their love of smokey, retro psychedelia and acid folk robbed the songs of the light/dark dynamics that appealed to me in the first place. Much of that record I found initially discordant, meandering and forgettable. And Mikael Åkerfeldt‘s Death growls, which upon my introduction to the band back in the early 2000’s I had found impenetrable and initially off-putting, I found myself missing a great deal; and whilst his ‘clean’ singing voice is also a beautiful thing, woody and melancholic, he seemed to have misplaced his knack for writing memorable melodies and compelling song structures too.
As it happens, my appreciation for that album has grown over time: there are echoes of latter-day Talk Talk and Scott Walker in its subtle twists and turns; its complex, off-kilter rhythms that repeat listening has teased out. It’s actually a fine record in many ways, if one that – perversely, given the significant reduction in metal extremity – remains their most ‘difficult’ listen. So it was with some relief that I read in a recent interview that the upcoming (June 16th) release of Pale Communion marks a return to a ‘more melodic’ style, to quote Åkerfeldt, who elaborated ‘…I spent a lot of time on vocal lines’. It also has ‘…a darker and heavier overall vibe than its predecessor’ according to Prog Magazine. Good news all round, then.
Read Greg Kennelty of Metal Injection‘s track-by-track-taster of Pale Communion here
(Though, as with the Åkerfeldt/Åkersson interview below, the album title and track-listing had yet to be finalized at the time of publication).
Feel free to amuse yourself guessing which song titles correspond to the descriptions above.
Eternal Rains Will Come
Cusp of Eternity
Moon Above, Sun Below
Voice of Treason
Faith in Others
P.s. whilst perusing the Metal Injection page, I chanced upon Mastodon‘s latest single release, High Road
This sounds fantastic! Effortlessly combining the bowel-stirring sludginess of their early albums with the instant hook of last album The Hunter without sacrificing the harmonic complexity and nuance of Blood Mountain and Crack The Skye. The Atlantans are a canny and ambitious lot, for sure. If the rest of the album is up to this standard our ears are in for a treat this summer. In the meantime I’m expecting Indy Cindy (Pixies‘ first new album in 20 years) to land on my doorstep in just over a week. Happy days 🙂